Grand County begins new tradition with Grand Park Nordic Relay Festival
The first ever Grand Park Nordic Relay Festival (GPNRF) was held Sunday in the Winter Park/Fraser area under clear blue skies.
It was a mild winter day Jan. 22 as cross-country skiing enthusiasts from throughout Grand County took to the trails of the Grand Park Nordic Course, located directly behind the Fraser Rec Center, for the morning’s activities. The family centric event featured Nordic relay races in multiple different age categories. Grand Nordic, Grand County’s Nordic skiing club, put on the event with Mike Lohman acting as the official event organizer.
“It has been fantastic,” Lohman said. “We couldn’t ask for a better day. We have a lot of fantastic sponsors and volunteers. This is a great start for the season and a great start for the relay event.”
Lohman said Grand Nordic has been planning the event for almost a year and scheduled the GPNRF to follow immediately after the Stagecoach Classic, held Saturday, Jan. 21. “In June we pulled the plug and said, ‘Let’s try to do something here.” Lohman explained as he cheered on racers as they passed. “The goal is to get this established as a keystone event, to be able to do it year after year. We hope people recognize we put on a great event and next year hope we get even more people showing up.”
The event was broken down into multiple different race categories including: competitive, youth, recreational and adaptive. The GPNRF also featured a Doggy Dash event for skiers and their friendly four-legged companions. Along with the racing elements event organizers also held a raffle. Lohman said sponsors for the event donated several thousand dollars worth of prizes.
Diana Lynn Rau, a member of Grand Nordic, was working to rile up the crowd Sunday morning as races wound their way around the Grand Nordic Couse. Rau was thrilled with the community’s participation in the event and is optimistic about the future of the GPNRF.
“We are very hopeful for the future of this because we have had a fantastic turnout,” said Rau. “The community has been a huge supporter of this. All the proceeds go towards our [Grand Nordic’s] kids programs all over the County.” Rau explained Grand Nordic offers programs for children from preschool all the way up through high school and also offers competition programs and scholarship opportunities for those who are interested.
According to Rau 10 teams preregistered for the event and additional teams showed Sunday morning. Because the races Sunday morning were relays each team had multiple members. The National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) was well represented at the event.
Grand County Judge Nick Catanzarite was among those testing out his Nordic skills Sunday. Catanzarite is a three-time Paralympic sit-skier but the cross-country world is fairly new to him. “I just started Nordic skiing,” Judge Catanzarite said. “I’m an alpine guy so this is all new to me. This has been a lot of fun. It is a beautiful day today and it is a great group of people.”
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